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Mental Health (Legislation)

Volume 983: debated on Thursday 1 May 1980

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asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what provisions are being made in the forthcoming legislation on the Mental Health Act to ensure that those considered to be suffering from mental illness and in need of psychiatric treatment are given a thorough medical examination first to ensure that they are not suffering from a physical condition which may be causing the apparent mental illness.

The Mental Health Act 1959 deals with compulsory powers rather than with clinical aspects of treatment for mental disorder. I do not think it would be practicable to widen the scope of the Act in the way suggested. It provides that a mentally disordered person may be subject to compulsory powers on the basis of medical recommendations. The criteria to be met are that the person is suffering from mental disorder of a nature or degree which warrants his detention in hospital or reception into guardianship and that it is necessary for his own health or safety or for the protection of others. The cause, or suspected cause, of the mental disorder is not relevant to the provisions of the Act.It is, of course, professional good practice for a medical practitioner to conduct a medical examination before making his diagnosis and to refer his patient to the source of treatment appropriate to his findings.